(The Center Square) – Four-term Rep. Dan Newhouse faces six Republican challengers in the deep-red Fourth Congressional District primary election on Aug. 2.
Loren Culp, a retired law enforcement officer and the GOP's gubernatorial candidate in 2020, is a leading contender for the seat that Newhouse has held since 2014.
Culp has been endorsed and Newhouse has been blasted by former President Donald Trump.
Trump's stated reasons for backing Culp including his staunch refusal as the Republic police chief to enforce gun control laws approved in 2018 by Washington voters. He has also been recognized by the former president for his support of constitutional rights and limiting the size and scope of government.
Trump’s endorsement means a lot, says Culp, in a district where the former president captured nearly 58% of the vote in the 2020 election. That was Trump’s highest support in any Washington congressional district.
Newhouse was one of 10 Republicans who voted for Trump's impeachment following the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, earning Trump's scorn.
“Everywhere I go the voters are still angry about the betrayal of the incumbent,” Culp told The Center Square.
He said the anger is still palpable long after the immediate fallout from Newhouse’s vote. Six county GOP chairs from the district issued a letter in 2021 calling for Newhouse to resign, something he refused to do.
Newhouse has doubled-down on his vote, saying it was justified because Trump played a role in inciting the attack and refused to calm the situation when a mob swarmed the building.
“That impeachment process was not constitutional, Trump was not guilty of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ said Culp. “The Democrats had threatened to impeach Trump before he was even elected and the incumbent just allowed himself to be used as a political pawn.”
Newhouse was unable to immediately be reached for comment.
Culp questions why Newhouse doesn’t advocate that President Joe Biden be held accountable for an alleged career of corruption that comports with constitutional removal, something he wants to see happen.
Republican dominance in the Fourth District is long established, said Culp, who sees that as his advantage with Trump backing. He said records show that no Democratic presidential candidate has carried any county in the district since Bill Clinton won Okanogan County in 1992.
“When the incumbent made that impeachment vote, he wasn’t representing his constituents, he was protecting the swamp,” said Culp.
If elected, Culp plans to join the Freedom Caucus in Congress. He is strongly supported by Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, who has donated to his campaign.
“There are a lot of Republicans, like the incumbent, who say they support conservative values but then they vote on spending bills that give money to Planned Parenthood and enact red flag laws that limit gun rights,” said Culp.
He said if conservative primary voters examine Newhouse’s record, they won't like what they see. The Conservative Review's Liberty Scorecard gives the congressman a 54% score.
“I know that I’m hitting a nerve when the incumbent receives more than $1 million from establishment Republicans to engage in a smear campaign against me,” said Culp.
There are accusations that he mishandled campaign funds as a gubernatorial candidate, and bungled a child sex-abuse investigation as police chief, all of which he strongly denies.
Culp said the series of attack ads endorsed by Newhouse are baseless and intended as red herrings to focus attention away from real issues.
He said the American economy is faltering from policy decisions made by the Biden administration and spending bills approved by Congress. Families are struggling to put food on the table and pay bills, and they want change, he said.
After declaring his candidacy for the Fourth District last year, Culp and his wife, Barbara, relocated from Republic to Moses Lake.
Although he would have been legally allowed to live outside the congressional district and still serve, Culp decided to relocate into the heart of the district that encompasses counties from the Canadian border to Oregon.
“Republic is a long way from everything,” he explained. “I wanted to be able to campaign and still make it home in the evenings to spend time with my family.”
Although Culp did not prevail in the 2020 statewide contest for governor, he said voter momentum remained behind him. He may not have been able to take Jay Inslee down, but he sees Newhouse as a different sort of roadblock to the America he wants to see.
“I am a veteran and a retired law enforcement officer,” said Culp. “I took an oath to defend my country and to protect and serve, and that’s what drives me."
Also running for the Fourth District are Republicans Jerrod Sessler, Benancio “Benny” Garcia III, Jacek Kobiesa, Brad Klippert and Corey Gibson.
The lone Democratic contender is Doug White.
The top two candidates from the upcoming primary, regardless of party, will be listed on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. It's possible that the Culp-Newhouse rivalry could be decided by voters in the general election.